How to Survive Design School (When You Hate Woodworking)

How to Survive Design School (When You Hate Woodworking)

During my three years studying furniture design, I had never used the words "love" and "woodshop" in the same sentence. Generally, I'mecstatic during the research, ideation, and modeling stages up until that ominous day when I must drag un-milled wood out the back closet. My heart sinks and my stomach knots. It’s do or die. I fold my already splintered hands, praying that I can get out of this place as soon as possible with all ten fingers intact.




If this sounds like you, sit back and enjoy the following things I’ve learned that allowed me to graduate and keep my hand modeling dream very much alive.


1. Get to the root

Figure out what it is about woodworking that makes your skin crawl. It could stem from a scarring accident, recurring negative voices, feeling unqualified, the anticipated frustration of not being able to CRTL + Z your way back to perfection, or – as in mycase- all the above.


2. Play from your strengths

Capitalize on the design stages that you are good at in order to execute the best presentation possible. At the end of the day, a piece with excellent craftsmanship that lacks design, innovation, and/or communication can only go so far.



3. Educate yourself into confidence

Competency breeds confidence. The more you know about a certain machine or fabrication process, the less afraid you’ll likely be of doing it yourself. A lot of reading material out there is heavy-handed and outdated. Here are some great modern resources you can explore that are engaging and up-to-date.





YouTube Channels

The Wood Whisperer

Home Made Modern

Saw Dust Sandra

I Like to Make Stuff

The Geek Pub








4. Set realistic goals

Going outside of your comfort zone doesn’t necessitate a crash and burn final presentation. Be honest with what you know you can accomplish. If you’re setting out to do something new, give yourself excess time and focus to get it done right. This is not the time to be overoptimistic. Things are almost never done right the first time.


5. Plan, plan, plan

The more detailed your plans, the more comfortable you’ll feel in the process. Lay out everything from identifying your pieces, the order of machining, the overall and final dimensions, and personal reminders.  


It might look something like this.


[insert motivational quote here] 


3/2 - Objective: Mill front and back legs

- A – Cherry Board 5”W x 1.5”T x 10” L

1. Joiner – Join the board face first until flat *Use push stick and keep fingers away from blades.

2. Planer – Plane board to 1 inch

3. Table Saw – Cut board square - Rip board into four 1 inch pieces *Label end grain to remember sides for sander.

4. Thickness Sander – Run pieces through the sander until it reaches….


5. Measure twice and cut twice

Inching down to a final dimension is the best way to go. It’s always better to have too much material than too little.


7. Accept that you like woodworking more than you think

Face it -- you like creating things more than most people. You live for seeing ideas materialize. Woodworking is just another form of the things you already love to do.  Just like drawing and presentations, woodworking takes practice and patience. Visualize success, ask for help, learn from others, and fake it till you make it.


You can do it!




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